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A Case of Human Bone Modification by Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Philippines

Matthew C. Go

Abstract


Members of several insect orders are known to modify osseous vertebrate remains postmortem, whether for nutritional or habitational purposes. Recognizing the appearance of these taphonomic traces is important in the evaluation of skeletal remains recovered from forensic and archaeological contexts. Thus far, ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) have only been anecdotally noted in the literature to modify bone as a presumed food resource and have not yet been shown to modify human bone. This paper presents a contemporary case where a colony of ants was directly observed nesting inside human bone and describes the appearance of modified entrances into their repurposed medullary cavity dwellings. This case may prompt further considerations of ants as agents of bone modification, how and why such behaviors occur, and how to recognize these ichnological traces.

KEYWORDS: forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, taphonomy, ichnology, insect damage, Nylanderia


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/FA.2018.0012